'Too late to leave' as more fires break out

Firefighters battled hundreds of bushfires across Australia yesterday as scores of blazes sprang up in new locations, triggering warnings it was too late for some residents to evacuate.

As thick smoke blanketed the most populous city, Sydney, for a third day, residents were urged to keep children indoors, stepping up pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to tackle climate change.

Dozens of fires were burning across the south-eastern state of Victoria and temperatures of 40.9C in Melbourne, its capital, matched the hottest day on record in 1894, Australia’s weather bureau said.

Authorities warned residents of towns 50km north of Ballarat, the state’s third largest city, it was too late for them to evacuate safely. “You are in danger, act now to protect yourself,” fire authorities said in an alert. “It is too late to leave. The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately.”

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Blazes across several states have endangered thousands, killing at least four people this month, burning about 2.5 million acres of farmland and bush and destroying more than 400 homes.

The early arrival and severity of the fires in spring follows three years of drought which experts have linked to climate change and which have left bushland tinder-dry.

Mt Morrison rejected any link to climate change, saying: “Climate change is a global phenomenon, and we’re doing our bit as part of the response to climate change.”

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